Civic Leadership Academy selects 30 leaders for 2016 class

The Civic Leadership Academy has selected 30 emerging leaders who work for the city of Chicago, Cook County, and a diverse array of nonprofits from across Chicago to make up its 2016 class of fellows. Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Chicago’s Deputy Mayor Steve Koch and University of Chicago Vice President for Civic Engagement Derek Douglas welcomed the class during a ceremony at the Gleacher Center on Jan. 13.


“For the second year in a row, roughly 100 professionals applied to the program, resulting in a highly talented pool of potential fellows,” said Douglas. “I am confident that this new class of fellows will build on the track record of the inaugural class to have significant positive impact in our communities.”

The University launched the Civic Leadership Academy in 2015 to develop a pipeline of talented leaders to help nonprofits and city and county government agencies in Chicago thrive. The interdisciplinary leadership development program is a key component of a broad set of UChicago initiatives to foster leadership and strengthen capacity among individuals and organizations in Chicago.

The Office of Civic Engagement oversees the program in partnership with the Harris School of Public Policy, the School of Social Service Administration, the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the University of Chicago Law School, the Institute of Politics, Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago, Civic Consulting Alliance, the city of Chicago, and Cook County.

On Jan. 14, the fellows began a rigorous six-month program that will teach essential leadership skills and provide the time and space to collaborate on a capstone project that addresses a practical challenge facing each fellow’s organization. In February, the fellows will travel to the University of Chicago Center in Delhi, India, for a weeklong global practicum. Upon completion of the program, fellows will receive a certificate in civic leadership from Chicago Harris.

“As the Civic Leadership Academy program builds capacity and momentum in its second year, we are honored to continue to serve as its academic home,” said Daniel Diermeier, dean of Chicago Harris. “This year’s fellows confront daunting challenges as they seek to improve lives in the communities they serve, but their commitment to making a positive impact is inspiring. I am excited to meet the new class of fellows and look forward to what this collaboration will bring.”

By bringing together nonprofit and government professionals, the Civic Leadership Academy fuels an exchange of ideas within the University community and across the city that could potentially improve practices and civic outcomes. Among the 2016 Civic Leadership Academy Fellows, 15 represent nonprofit organizations, eight represent the city and seven represent the county.

During the welcome reception, James Rudyk Jr., executive director of the Northwest Side Housing Center and a member of the inaugural Civic Leadership Academy cohort, told the 2016 class, “You will gain the knowledge needed to be a successful leader who operates from a place of self-understanding. As leaders, it is our duty to take that knowledge and apply it to our work in real time. It’s our job to push ourselves, to try something new, to think outside the box and to make the difficult choices in order to continue to grow and develop.”

Tasha Cruzat, Preckwinkle’s chief of staff, said, “We have already seen the benefits of the Civic Leadership Academy in both the development of county leaders who participated in the inaugural class and in the advancement of their capstone projects. We are excited about the impact the 2016 fellows will have on the increased effectiveness of county government.”

Fellows are nominated by their organizations, which pay the $6,000 program fee. The University, Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust, Microsoft Corporation, and JPMorgan Chase are underwriting the program for the second consecutive year.

The 2016 fellows are:

  • Fanny Diego Alvarez, director of education, Enlace Chicago
  • Maritza Bandera, project manager of centennial, civic engagement and partnerships, The Chicago Community Trust
  • Phillip Boothby, director of capital planning and policy, Cook County Bureau of Asset Management
  • Jennifer Bransfield, vice president and general counsel, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives
  • Daniel Cervantes, vice president of finance and operations, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future
  • Crystal Coats, senior manager of corporate and external partnerships, Chicago Housing Authority
  • Kia Christie Coleman, director of juvenile justice programs, Chicago Department of Family and Support Services
  • Benjamin Dieterich, assistant budget director, Chicago Office of Budget and Management
  • Anthony Dover, energy manager, Cook County Bureau of Asset Management
  • Samuel E. Dyson, director, Hive Chicago Learning Network
  • Maureen Lopez Fitzpatrick, associate dean, Wilbur Wright College, City Colleges of Chicago
  • Brady Gott, managing director, Cleanslate Chicago
  • Ruth Greenwood, lead attorney, Voting Rights Project, Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
  • Julio L. Guerrero, vice president, institutional advancement, The Resurrection Project
  • Joseph Hollendoner, first deputy commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health
  • Elizabeth Jellema, director of research, World Business Chicago
  • Brandie V. Knazze, deputy commissioner of IT, contracts and programmatic monitoring, Chicago Department of Family Support Services
  • Betsy Leonard, vice president of external relations, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights
  • Simone Melissa Moseley, instructional effectiveness specialist, Chicago Public Schools
  • Patrick Murphy, manager, Zoning Board of Appeals, Chicago Department of Planning and Development
  • Clifford M. Nellis, executive director and lead attorney, Lawndale Christian Legal Center
  • Manuel Pérez, chief of staff, Office of County Clerk David D. Orr
  • Denean Pillar-Jackson, associate director of corporate partnerships, Year Up
  • Anel Ruiz, deputy chief of staff, Office of Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle
  • Eliza Solowiej, executive director, First Defense Legal Aid
  • Crystal Sykes, director of employee services and workforce development, Heartland Alliance for Human Needs and Rights
  • Jim Thompson, deputy commissioner, Commissioner Michael Cabonargi, Cook County Board of Review
  • Lanetta Haynes Turner, executive director, Justice Advisory Council, Cook County Office of the President
  • Alex Wilson, executive director and founder, West Town Bikes
  • John Yonan, superintendent, Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways